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News from the National Academies

Date:  Feb. 7, 2011

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Implementation of BRAC 2005 Will Lead to Serious Traffic Congestion in Some Major Metropolitan Areas; Report Calls for Special Appropriation to Mitigate Immediate Problems

 

WASHINGTON — Implementation of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) law of 2005 will concentrate tens of thousands of additional personnel at or near 18 domestic military bases, several of which are located in major metropolitan areas with already congested transportation infrastructure.  The September 2011 deadline for realignment is far too soon for surrounding communities to deal with significant added traffic congestion for military personnel and other commuters during peak travel periods, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board.  It calls on the U.S. Department of Defense to pay its share of local transportation improvements.

 

The committee that wrote the report developed case studies to examine impacts around six bases where BRAC requirements will cause personnel shifts to occur faster than infrastructure can be improved.  The committee found that transportation and congestion problems resulting from the realignment will impose substantial costs on some of the surrounding communities and may be detrimental to the military as well.  Transportation improvements needed to handle extra traffic demand exceed state and local resources.  Similar problems could exist at other BRAC 2005 growth bases.

 

"Normal planning and funding will not be adequate to make near-term improvements needed to avoid significant, even severe, added traffic congestion in some BRAC cases," said Joseph M. Sussman, committee chair and JR East Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

 

The report offers ways to mitigate the effects of base realignments for the near, medium and long term.  For the near term, it calls on Congress to consider a special appropriation or the allocation of uncommitted stimulus funds to address the most adverse transportation problems.  The intent of these funds would be to initiate projects within the year that would reduce the severity of congestion impacts within three years. 

 

In the medium and long term, the committee recommended creating new funding streams for transportation infrastructure, calling on DOD to accept more financial responsibility for transportation problems related to growth on military bases just as private developers pay impact fees to cover costs for improvements made to access their sites.  DOD's policy is that transportation infrastructure is the responsibility of state and local governments, with limited exception.  The committee noted that communities that benefit economically from the presence of military bases should help pay for necessary transportation improvements as well.

 

Allocation of cost responsibility is complex and requires careful analysis, the committee said. To determine the military's share, a transportation impact study would be needed to assess traffic delays resulting from additional personnel traveling to and from military bases, including delays incurred wherever a bottleneck might occur on the transportation network.

 

The one DOD program that funds off-base transportation infrastructure -- the Defense Access Roads (DAR) program -- is inadequate for highly populated areas.  "One of DAR's key criteria is flawed," said Sussman.  "Requiring traffic at a base to double to be eligible for off-base road improvement funds is impossible in metropolitan areas with tens of thousands of commuters already on the roads."  The committee called for revisions to the DAR program that would establish an impact fee approach to pay for the military’s share of road improvements in metropolitan areas and a separate DOD program to fund transit services for military personnel.   

 

Each added vehicle in congested traffic has a nonlinear effect, causing disproportionate delay on other drivers.  This nonlinear impact means that modest changes such as teleworking, travelling during off-peak times, and carpooling have real benefits.  The military should encourage these types of traffic mitigation measures and provide financial incentives for base commanders who implement them, the committee said.

 

BRAC 2005 is not the only major initiative that will increase growth at or near bases.  There are other military reorganizations and initiatives that, together with BRAC, will relocate an additional estimated 180,000 military and civilian workers at the 18 BRAC-affected bases.  "Concentrations of personnel at some military bases will continue.  To better prepare for this growth, the military and metropolitan planning organizations must work together," said Sussman.  "It is imperative that a process be developed that requires military and state and local officials to communicate, plan, and pay for transportation infrastructure." 

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.  A committee roster follows.

 

Contacts: 

Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information

Chris White, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

 

Additional resources:

The case studies are of Fort Belvoir, Va; Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md.; Fort Meade, Md.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Ft. Bliss, Texas; and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

•           Map of 18 BRAC Expanded Bases

•           Chart of estimated growth near/at BRAC affected military bases

           Report In Brief

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Pre-publication copies of Federal Funding of Transportation Improvements In BRAC Cases are available from the Transportation Research Board's bookstore, tel. 202-334-3213, and National Academies Press, tel. 202-334-3313.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

 

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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Transportation Research Board

Studies and Special Programs Division   

 

Committee on Federal Funding of Transportation Improvements in BRAC Cases

 

Joseph M. Sussman (chair)

JR East Professor

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and

Engineering Systems Division

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge

 

V. Thera Black

Senior Planner

Thurston Regional Planning Council

Olympia, Wash.

 

Thomas B. Deen*

Transportation Consultant

National Research Council (retired)

Stevensville, Md.

 

James R. Gosnell

Executive Director

West Coast Corridor Coalition

Los Angeles

 

Max I. Inman

Senior Advisor

Project Finance and Program Management

Mercator Advisors LLC

Fairfax, Va.

 

Ashby Johnson

Deputy Metropolitan Planning Organization Director

Houston Galveston Area Council

Houston

 

Fred Meurer

City Manager

City of Monterey

Salinas, Calif.

 

Kevin Neels

Principal

Transportation Practice

The Brattle Group

Washington, D.C.

 

George E. Schoener

Executive Director

I-95 Corridor Coalition

Celebration, Fla.

 

Randall Yim

Independent Consultant

Scottsville, Va.

 

 

STAFF

Stephen Godwin

Study Director

 

 

*  Member, National Academy of Engineering